Cranberry Township, Pa. – The U.S. National Under-18 Team defeated the Omaha Lancers, 3-2, in overtime Saturday evening inside the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in its USHL Fall Classic opener. Will Smith (Lexington, Mass.) netted the overtime winner just 0:42 into three-on-three action to pick up the win.
Team USA controlled the first 20 and doubled the Lancers shot total but couldn’t push one across the goal line. Danny Nelson (Maple Grove, Minn.) had a great look with under 2:00 to go in the first during a man advantage, but the Lancers starting netminder Michael Hrabal denied the opportunity. Shortly after, with 0:30 left on the clock, Gabe Perreault (Hinsdale, Ill.) looked to break the stalemate with a shot from the slot but was blocked aside to keep things even at zero after one.
Perreault had another good look on net 7:34 in, followed by a Smith breakaway opportunity but both were swallowed up by Hrabal. After 23 U.S. shots, Salvatore Guzzo (Old Tappan, N.J.) finally broke the ice for the first goal of the game 10:14 into the frame. The Lancers attempted to clear the puck out of its defensive zone, but Guzzo caught the puck out of the air at the blue line and onto his blade. A quick shot in the slot beat Hrabal blocker side to put Team USA up one.
On the power play, Team USA put itself up by a pair off the tape of Oliver Moore (Mounds View, Minn.). Nelson was battling on the boards in the offensive zone and muscled his way to keep possession of the puck. Alex Weiermair (Los Angeles, Calif.) came to his aid and picked up the puck on the wing and streaked towards the net. A cross-ice feed found a waiting Moore on the doorstep to tap the puck in with 0:27 to go.
The Lancers answered and came back in the third on back-to-back power play goals, 2:38 apart. Evan Werner put one over the blocker of starting U.S. netminder Carsen Musser (Sherburn, Minn.) with 7:41 left to go, followed by an Alex Bump goal to knot things up at two.
Team USA gave one last push in the final minute of regulation during four-on-three play but 60 minutes wasn't enough and went into overtime tied, 2-2.
It only took 0:48 into overtime for Team USA to thwart a Lancers comeback with help from a Smith goal. Paul Fischer (River Forest, Ill.) scooped up a loose puck in the defensive zone and sent a long pass down the ice. Smith was skating right behind the net as Hrabal came out of the crease to try and beat him there. Smith had the extra step and picked up the puck and potted the winner into an empty net.
Musser started in net for the U.S. and stopped 16 shots faced.
The Under-18 Team returns to the ice tomorrow to round out play at the USHL Fall Classic against the Waterloo Black Hawks. Puck drop is set for 2:30 p.m. ET and can be streamed on FloHockey.